Career-minded Northwestern students like third-year communications studies major Marlene Alanis understand the value of making a good first impression.
As students prepare for job interviews, Alanis is helping to make sure that finding the right attire isn’t something students have to worry about as they polish their resumes.
Inside 630 Lincoln, career ambassadors like Alanis and the Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) team help bring ’Cats Closet to life every Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a personalized shopping experience,” Alanis said. “Because our items are donated by Evanston residents, Northwestern staff, alumni and employer partners, it’s a more sustainable way to source your clothes as you’re looking for professional attire.”
NCA launched ’Cats Closet in 2018 to provide students free clothes they can keep for job interviews or career opportunities. Former NCA staff member Kim Corbin managed the program from 2018 until her retirement in 2022.
Taylor Kinn, associate director for Student Career Advising, said that ’Cats Closet has increased in popularity as Northwestern students return to in-person jobs, internships and career events following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saving students from having to buy a brand-new suit just to attend a career fair, info session or coffee chat.
’Cats Closet is part of NCA’s focus on making sure professional clothing is never a barrier for students to explore career opportunities.
“One change we made is that all our employer events are now business casual to make them more accessible,” Kinn said. “We don’t want students to feel like they have to purchase a brand-new suit or have really formal business attire when they attend something like a career fair, information session or coffee chat on campus.”
And rather than simply open ’Cats Closet for students to navigate on their own, NCA staff and career ambassadors like Alanis are there to help students shop and understand the lingo of fashion in the workplace.
“I wanted to be a bridge between NCA staff and Northwestern students,” she said. “The different resources have helped me a lot, and I wanted to encourage more students to take advantage of NCA.”
Inside ’Cats Closet on a typical Thursday, career ambassadors like Alanis helps students sort through different options based on their professional needs.
Business casual? She’s got you covered. Searching for something a little more formal? No problem. The goal is to make the experience of applying for, interviewing and landing a job as a student as barrier-free as possible.
This includes headshot events hosted at ‘Cats Closet, when NCA brings in a professional photographer from the Student Affairs marketing office to take photos that students can use on sites like LinkedIn.